Powerful Earthquake Strikes Chile; Hawaii on Edge After Tsunami Warning
Update 7:40pm EST
As Chile raced to assess the damage from Saturday’s powerful earthquake, Hawaii canceled its tsunami warning after hours of waiting and watching its shores for dangerous waves triggered by the temblor.
“We dodged a bullet,” said Gerard Fryer, a geophysicist for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, according to the Associated Press. He said there was the possibility that the tsunami would gain strength again as it heads to Japan.
Tsunami waves did send surges of water ashore in Hawaii, California and islands in the South Pacific on Saturday as the ripple effects of the earthquake continued. Nearly 50 countries and island chains remained under tsunami warnings.
In the hours before the tsunami in Hawaii, boats and people near the coast were evacuated.
Chile, meanwhile, reeled from the impact of the 8.8-magnitude earthquake, which left roadways broken and buildings collapsed as well as severing communications and some basic utilities like electricity.
The AP reported that at least 214 people were killed, according to Interior Minister Edmundo Perez Yoma, and officials said about 1.5 million homes suffered at least some damage. Media reports attributed the low death toll to Chile’s solid building standards.
“It came in waves and lasted so long. Three minutes is an eternity. We kept worrying that it was getting stronger, like a terrifying Hollywood movie,” Santiago resident Dolores Cuevas told Reuters.
The U.S. Geological Survey said that a “large vigorous aftershock sequence” can be expected after the quake in a region prone to seismic activity.
The quake that hit Chile unleashed 500 times more energy than the disastrous Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti, according to a report from NPR. However, the Haiti earthquake struck close to the capital city of Port-au-Prince, while the Chilean temblor was more diffuse and farther away from highly populated areas.
Listen to NPR’s Guy Raz and Richard Harris discuss the scientific mechanics of the quake here.
The New York Times also takes a closer look at the fault zone where the quake occurred, the same fault responsible for the biggest quake ever measured, a 1960 tremor that killed nearly 2,000 people in Chile and hundreds more across the Pacific.
Update 11:30am EST
A powerful 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday, creating a seismic jolt that was reported to have been felt from Argentina to Japan and triggering a tsunami alert that impacts several nations.
The temblor struck at 3:34 a.m. local time about 200 miles southwest of Santiago, the country’s capital. In the city of Concepcion, 70 miles from the epicenter, nurses and residents pushed the injured through the streets on stretchers, according to wire reports.
Interior Minister Edmundo Perez Yoma said the quake killed at least 82 people, but the death toll was rising quickly, according to the Associated Press. Chilean President Michele Bachelet declared a “state of catastrophe.”
Major news organizations are tracking developments in Chile on the Web. Among them:
The New York Times Lede blog has been regularly updating with Saturday’s developments. They point out this AP video of raw footage from Santiago:
NPR’s Two-Way blog is also providing updated information. On the potential tsunami danger to Hawaii, they note that KHON-TV is streaming its coverage here and that Hawaii Public Radio is streaming its coverage here.
The State Department advises those looking for U.S. citizens in the affected area call 1-888-407-4747. Google has also launched a “Person Finder” tool, similar to an online resource used during the recent Haiti earthquake disaster.